Durango's annual Animas River Days will launch today with a glimpse of whitewater history.The local river festival will feature the Durango premier of the historical documentary "The Call of the River."
The film, from Ken Ford's Durango-based Performance Video company, will show at 7 and 8:45 p.m. today at the Smiley Building. The showings will benefit Trout Unlimited, Animas Riverkeepers and the San Juan Citizens Alliance water program.
Tickets are available at Maria's Bookshop, Four Corners Riversports or at the door.
The film includes vintage canoeing and kayaking footage and in-depth interviews with eclectic pioneers of whitewater.
Also showing tonight are two fly-fishing films: "The Hatch," about the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and "See The Take," about the Futaleufu River in Chile.
A preview trailer for the whitewater film is available at www.thecalloftheriver.com.
"It's the first time anyone's really ever presented the sport's history this way," said Ford, who was inducted into the International Whitewater Hall of Fame in 2008.
"The story tells itself because there are so many interesting characters and milestones involved," Ford said.
He said the whitewater story is a collage of unexpected influences, from building boats in friends' basements and bribing damkeepers to release water to exploring virgin runs and experimenting with designs and materials to make the sport easier.
Ford, who has won numerous awards for his instructional videos, takes a behind-the-scenes look at what inspires paddlers to answer the call of the river.
The 93-minute documentary has 100 sources of footage that span 80 years of whitewater history.
According to Ford, the film chronicles the world of whitewater from its early beginnings in Europe through its position as a major outdoor sport today.
The film includes segments on the inaugural FIBArk race on Colorado's Arkansas River in 1949 to Grumman Aviation entering the aluminum canoe business.
The evolution of whitewater equipment is covered, including the development of fiberglass boats and Hollowform plastic kayaks.
The addition of whitewater slalom to the 1972 Summer Olympics and other competitive whitewater developments are included.
"I knew a lot of this footage existed," said Ford, who has been boating since the 1970s. "So I've been beating the bush for the footage for ... three years."
Animas River Days launches on the water Saturday. There will be a whitewater slalom race Saturday morning with fly-casting and fly-tying demonstrations at Santa Rita Park (10 a.m. to noon).
A fly-casting clinic is scheduled for Saturday afternoon (1-2 p.m.) at Santa Rita Park.
A Down-Up-Down (DUD) Race will start at 2 p.m. Saturday. Teams of three will compete in the ducky race down the Animas River, followed by a run back to the start. The third leg of the contest is a scooter race on the River Trail.
The traditional River Parade, a keystone of the weekend celebration, will start at 5 p.m. Saturday.
On Sunday, the downriver race will be held at 9 a.m. A kayak rodeo is set for 10 a.m. Sunday.
The event closes with a river cleanup along the Animas River.